I was a peculiar child. Every Christmas season, instead of begging my parents for new dolls, princess tiaras, or a pony, I’d always write down “books” at the top of my Christmas list. To my eternal disappointment, every year my mother gave me stuff I needed: a new coat or shoes, a new dress for church, or the ever-dreaded socks. My mother doesn’t read for pleasure and never understood my fascination with words. “They’re not real,” she’d tell me when I told her about Captain Ahab’s white whale or Beth’s death in Little Women, “Why do you care so much?”
Twenty years later, that question still haunts me. Why do I care so much? Why do I cry for fictional characters? Why invest myself so much in a world that’s not real?
I blame my father.
I was seven-years-old the first time I read The Hobbit. Although my mother was unwilling to indulge my obsession for fiction, my father did. I had tossed aside The Chronicles of Narnia and The Little House on the Prairie series. I read things like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Three Musketeers, but at the age of 7 I didn’t understand them, nor did I want to. One Christmas, my father handed me a crudely wrapped present. “Don’t tell your mother,” he whispered.
According to Lee Edwards in his book, Psyche as Hero (1984) “By the beginning of the twentieth century, novelists seem readier to abandon the project of entrapping the female heroic character and begin the task of inventing maneuvers whereby she can break out of familial, sexual, and social bondage into an altered and appropriate world” (16). Suzanne Collins’ “Girl on Fire” is a heroic alternative to limited female archetypes bound inextricably to traditionally assigned gender roles. Katniss is not tied to a matriarchal role, in fact, she cannot and will not bare children until social change is achieved in Panem. Readers encounter a love triangle of sorts, yet it is not central to the action. Katniss cannot settle into any role comfortably until she achieves social and spiritual growth and her journey is over. On her quest, the female hero must risk violating social norms regarding gender roles to fully realize her heroic qualities. Katniss must “incorporate change into [her] private life [and then] move with confidence into a newly constituted world” (Edwards 16).
It is a story we have heard before: a mad scientist dallies with the supernatural and creates something he cannot control. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) is the prototypical example of this story. It is the story of a man obsessed with creating “life;” Victor Frankenstein literally creates life from the dead.
As he creates his progeny, Victor Frankenstein isolates himself. This isolated environment—or as I like to call it, “the artificial womb”—produces a being without the aid of a woman and reflect the lack of empathy in Victor Frankenstein as he attempts to have absolute control over this new life. It is this lack of empathy, mirrored by the isolation that the creative environment exhibits, that ultimately dooms Frankenstein’s experiment. Because of the unnatural procreation process, the lack of maternal (or paternal) bond, Victor Frankenstein cannot empathize with his creations, resulting in the rejection of his “child” and the subsequent attempts to kill his creation.
With the act of creation, Victor Frankenstein takes both the male and female roles in the reproductive cycle, and by doing so, places himself as both god and parent. The procreation is unnatural, however. Frankenstein stitches together his child of intellect and abnormal science out of pieces of corpses. In Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein challenges nature, seizes deific roles, and ultimately dooms himself by his egocentric thoughts and actions. The male creator raises questions of gender, questions of spirituality, and ultimately the question of whether man can be more powerful than nature. As an audience intrigued by god complexes and experiments-gone-wrong, we are drawn to the possibilities of such creations, but horrified by the realities.
I liked steampunk before I even knew what steampunk was. I know that sounds incredibly hipsterish, but if you like steampunk the same is probably true of you. If you read H.G. Wells or Jules Verne when you were growing up, congratulations, you read the core literature of steampunk.
Steampunk is so much more than literature, however. It has branched out into almost every aspect of the entertainment world and become a subculture in its own right.
So what is steampunk? Well, essentially it began as a kind of science-fiction that used steam-powered technology to power robots, airships…pretty much anything people can dream up. Nowadays we have steampunk-inspired clothes, music, television/film, books, anime, etc. There’s even SteamCon, a convention devoted to all things steampunk (incidentally, if anyone wants to sponsor my way to this year’s con, I won’t object).
So if you’re new to the world of steampunk, here’s a few must-sees and should-haves:
Upon reading this news, my brain threw its (non-literal) hands in the air, slammed the front door, drove away, and has spent the last 6 weeks at a yoga retreat in Sonoma. In other words, I’m having a hard time processing that my favorite book of the twentieth century is going to have a fucking sequel.
I know I’m breaking the first rule, but let’s talk about how frickin amazing this book was and how ballsy Palahniuk is to be writing a sequel. AS A GRAPHIC NOVEL.
3 reasons why Fight Club kicks ass:
1. Tyler Durden/the narrator kick ass (sometimes literally).
2. It discusses a late twentieth century post modern view of masculinity and the expectations for men in a modern world.
3. Palahniuk gives a giant middle finger to societal and literary expectations by creating an antisocial, combative, mentally ill main character that is nevertheless likable.